Talks with Burma are no laughing matter

By David Pilling
Before Burmese stand-up comedian Zarganar was thrown in jail, his stage routine was peppered with references to motorcycles. Allusions to this apparently innocuous mode of transport would have his audience tittering nervously at the inside joke. Like Zarganar, they knew he was referring to a form of torture favoured by Burma’s generals. The “motorcycle” of Burma’s infamous prisons forces inmates to balance, for hours on end, on the balls of their feet – often with nails placed beneath their soles – and to make a buzzing sound. Burmese humour is no laughing matter.

Zarganar, a former dentist whose stage name means “tweezers”, certainly never succeeded in amusing the generals who prefer to call the country they run so badly Myanmar. His criticism of the junta’s tragically slow response to last year’s cyclone Nargis, which killed some 140,000 people and destroyed 800,000 homes, landed him a 59-year jail sentence, later commuted to 35 years.

Like Burma’s best-known political prisoner, Aung San Suu Kyi, Zarganar has been in and out of detention since the Nobel laureate’s National League for Democracy thumped the regime into fourth place in the annulled elections of 1990. Ms Suu Kyi has spent 14 of the past 19 years under house arrest. Last week, a court rejected her appeal against a further 18-month sentence imposed because she allowed an eccentric American to stay the night after he swam across the lake that backs on to her home. Thank God she did not mention motorbikes. Laughably transparent, even by the generals’ clumsy standards, the extension keeps the charismatic opposition leader out of the way throughout the highly orchestrated elections the junta plans for next year. Continue reading “Talks with Burma are no laughing matter”

Snr-Gen Than Shwe is to visit Mrauk U for inaugurating the renovated ancient pagoda with a new name, according to an official announcement.

Mrauk U, Arakan State: Snr-Gen Than Shwe is to visit Mrauk U for inaugurating the renovated ancient pagoda with a new name, according to an official announcement.

The Township Peace and Development Council (TPDC) is going to repair and decorate the road and roadside with flowers and plants with forced labour of local people. The date of the junta supremo’s arrival is not confirmed yet but local people must maintain the road and decorate the pagoda, said a local elder from Mrauk U.

The new pagoda was rebuilt in place of the ancient pagoda (Moomtheyma) situated on the eastern part of Mrauk U. It was built in (1531-1553) AD under the period of King Min Bin(Zabauk Shah)alias Min Ba Gyi on the advice of an astrologer to save the country from starvation. After the pagoda was built, the country was saved from starvation, according to the local elder people in Mrauk U.

Mrs. Kyaing Kyaing, the wife of Snr-Gen Than Shwe laid the foundation of the pagoda on April 2009 and the construction work was supervised by TPDC chairman Kyaw Than Laung, said the local.

The TPDC chairman used the local people in the renovation of the pagoda, he added.

Snr-Gen-Than Shwe will place the ornamental umbrella on the pagoda and will cut the opening ceremony ribbon when he arrives in Maruk U, according to official sources.

The Snr-Gen-Than Shwe had ordered revamping of the pagoda to maintain his rule in the country on the advice of his astrologers. The pagoda is named Min Kaung pagoda, according to local people from Mrauk U.

The superstitious generals consulted astrologers as well as political tacticians for guidance. This is not unusual in Burma.

Previously, currency denominations and traffic rules have been changed, the nation’s capital has been shifted and the timing of events has been selected — even the dates of popular uprisings — with astrological predictions in mind.

“Astrology has as a significant role in policies, leadership and decision making among Naypyidaw (Burma’s capital) generals as rational calculations, geopolitics and resource economics,” said Zarni, a Burmese exile analyst and researcher.

After the collapse of Danok Pagoda, Snr-Gen Than Shwe and his family went to Shwe Dagon Pagoda in Rangoon to donate pagoda-shaped flowers in what many believed was an effort to avoid bad karma as the Danok pagoda, on the outskirts of Rangoon, was newly blessed on May 7 in the presence of Kyaing Kyaing, wife of Senior General Than Shwe, along with A-listed junta big wigs.
Kaladan Predd

Shan State South:Scorched earth victims to be offered Nargis model homes

Villagers affected by the junta’s latest scorched earth campaign in Shan State South in late July will be given Nargis model homes by the government relief team, local sources said.

The Chairman of Shan State (South) Peace and Development Council and Commander of Eastern Region Command Brig-Gen Ya Pyae has assigned the Shan State South’ s Mongnawng-based Military Operations Command # 2 Commander Col Kyaw Zan Myint that all houses must be made of wood and design must be as Nargis homes model, according to two separate sources.

Battalion commander of Mongpawn based Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) #517 Major Kyaw Thu and Battalion commander of Loilem based Infantry Battalion (IB) #12 Major Kyaw Thura were charge of the construction project ordered by Col Kyaw Zan Myint. They were told to complete the construction within three months. Continue reading “Shan State South:Scorched earth victims to be offered Nargis model homes”

French foreign minister that sanctions on Burma are “useless” have been met with anger by campaigners who say he is acting to preserve French economic interests in the country.

French minister slams ‘useless’ sanctions
Oct 8, 2009 (DVB)–Remarks made today by the French foreign minister that sanctions on Burma are “useless” have been met with anger by campaigners who say he is acting to preserve French economic interests in the country.

Bernard Kouchner was quoted today by AFP as saying that “sanctions are useless and everyone recognises that. Should we not then show a greater openness to this government?”
Speaking to DVB, a member of the Paris-based Info Birmanie campaign group, Isabelle Dubois, said that Kouchner has always taking a critical stance on sanctions, largely because of French oil giant Total’s operations in Burma.
“Because of Total’s investment in the country, France has always tried not to compromise its interests in the country even if it;s at the expense of human rights and the Burmese people,” he said.
Total is France’s largest company, and one of the world’s biggest oil multinationals.
Its investments in Burma, particularly in the controversial Yadana gas pipeline, are said to be worth around $US500 million a year. Continue reading “French foreign minister that sanctions on Burma are “useless” have been met with anger by campaigners who say he is acting to preserve French economic interests in the country.”

Thailand approves second friendship with Burma on Moei River

by Usa Pichai
Thursday, 08 October 2009 13:01

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The cabinet of the Thailand government has approved construction of the second Thailand – Burma Friendship Bridge on Moei River to give a leg up to border trade and regional logistics.

Alongkorn Ponbutra, Deputy Commerce Minister in a press conference on Tuesday said that Thailand ‘s cabinet approved the project to develop a border economic zone in Mae Sot district of Tak province, bordering Myawaddy township, Burma.

The first project is to build the second Thailand-Burma Friendship Bridge on Moei River to cater to the increasing need for transportation of goods through the border. In addition, it would serve the East-West Corridor economics scheme. The development plan includes building Special Economic Zones, logistics centres and warehouses near the border of Mae Sot district.

“Now the authorities are looking for a suitable location to build the new bridge. The Ministry of Commerce has set up a committee comprising private sector representatives and government officials to develop border trading,” he said, according to a report in Thailand’s National News Bureau Website.

Alongkorn said that in 2008, the trading cost on the border of Thailand and Burma accounted for 144, 000 million Baht [4,363 million US$], in Myawaddy alone. Mae Sot accounted for about 20,000 million Baht [606 million US$]. Continue reading “Thailand approves second friendship with Burma on Moei River”